Cottage Living, Justin Bernhaut

Repainted dresser Learn How to Paint Anything

Tips, suggestions, and plain old-fashioned good advice for painting furniture to exteriors. » See Photos

orange living room Choose Paint Colors Like a Pro

Here's our guide to everything you need to know to understand color in your home, from tints to trends, and everything in-between. » See Photos

Old Becomes New
Feel like a fresh start or just want to freshen up a room for spring? Painting a room (or rooms!) is the quickest, easiest, and most affordable way to improve your home's appearance. Paint and materials for painting a 12- x 12-foot room start at $50 to $100. Depending on what supplies you already have, it could be substantially less. Bang for buck, it's hard to beat paint to liven up a room.

Preparation Is the Key
Take your time, and a new coat of paint will put a smile on your face for years. Rush the preparation, and you'll recognize your drips, runs, and sloppiness every time you enter the room. Patch nail holes and cracks with spackle, and sand it smooth later. Move furniture. Clean walls, ceilings, and floors with soap and water. Use drop cloths. Remove outlet/switch plates. The time you put in on prep will pay off!

Look Out for Lead
Lead-based paint can be hazardous to your health, plain and simple. More significantly, it is a major source of lead poisoning in children. So if you are sanding or prepping an older home for painting, be aware that lead is found in paint in about two-thirds of the homes built before 1940 and in one-half of the homes built from 1940 to 1960. If you live in such a home, there are do-it-yourself test kits; however, for peace of mind, you might want to hire a professional to do an in-home test. Alternately as a middle ground, you can mail out a sample to have a laboratory test your home’s paint. Get more information, see Enviornmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Latex vs. Oil-based Paint
If you're a novice, go with water-soluble latex. It's easier to apply and clean up. Latex is also nontoxic, dries in one to two hours, and has less odor. So if you feel like letting the kids help out, stick with latex -- but remember that interior rooms still should be well ventilated. Oil-based paints are better for sealing stains, adhering to metal or dirty surfaces, or for use in high traffic areas. The downside is they take up to 24 hours to dry, have strong odors, and require mineral spirits or turpentine to clean up. Oil-based paints are a flammable, hazardous material requiring careful disposal. Flat vs. Gloss
Paint is available in a number of finish gloss levels, and flat is basically no gloss. Manufacturers often use percentages to describe a paint's finish; thus flat is around 0-9% gloss (a dull surface) and 100% gloss is reflective (mirror like). Gloss is more durable, easier to clean, and more resistant to staining. Gloss also takes more preparation time because the finish will show imperfections more than flat. Flat is easier to touch up. Walls and ceilings are usually painted flat, while wooden trim and doors are usually painted high gloss.

What Is Eggshell? Do I Have To Be Careful?
Not really. Eggshell is one step up from flat. It is a compromise that is sometimes used to give painted walls a bit more longevity. Walls painted with eggshell finish will handle light marking (think kids and pets) and clean up well with warm, soapy water. Depending on your needs, you might step up to a satin finish for even more durability.

Yes, there is such a thing! While the first generation of environmentally friendly paints of the 1990s were a bit disappointing in their durability, that isn't so with the latest products. Today’s low-toxic paints contain few, if any, volatile organic compounds (gases) that may have adverse health effects. (For more information, see the EPA website. ) By using natural plant dyes and resins instead of potentially dangerous chemicals, such as benzene and formaldehyde, these new paints make for a safer home and healthier painting environment.


"Green" Paint

Quality vs. Quantity
You face this choice in almost every home repair, but it is especially true with regards to paint. It's an important decision. The best quality paints will cost a little more but often they will offer better and more uniform coverage -- and they can last much longer than ordinary paints. You get superior durability, smoother application, and more resistance to dirt and stains. That translates into long-term savings and greater convenience. Paint on a Budget
In tough economic times, everyone is looking for a bargain. Whether it is a single room or an exterior job, do it yourself if you can -- the savings over hiring a professional painter will be tremendous. Invite a few friends over, offer food and drinks, and you’ll be surprised how much you can get done in a day. (However, you may have some quality-control issues depending on how adept your pals are with a brush!) If you’re flexible on color, check your local hazardous waste recycling center for paint. Check your local hardware stores, and outlets too. They frequently offer bargains on perfectly good paint that has been returned. And don't forget Craigslist and eBay.

Light Makes Right
You won't find this in the ABCs of painting, but working with good lighting can make all the difference in a final coat of paint that pleases you for years to come -- and one that you continually spot flaws in for decades. Open your windows and remove the curtains to let all the natural light in that you can. Bring in lamps or additional lighting. If you can’t see what you’re painting, you’re making mistakes. And while you're at it, run a window fan if only to remove fumes. You'll feel better.

What Brush for What Job?
Sounds simple, doesn't it? It's not. Brushes work best for small areas, but remember that a cheap brush will often result in a poor finish. Quality brushes have a high percentage of bristles with split/flagged ends to hold the paint. Quality brushes also have filaments that vary in length. Use natural bristles with oil-based paints. Use nylon or polyester bristles with latex paints. When you're in need of precision, look for brushes that are tipped and have pointed ends so you can more accurately control your paint strokes. As for foam brushes, they are throwaways and use accordingly.

Some simple rules will get you started in style. Dip the brush a quarter to one-half the way into the paint. Paint from the top and work your way down. Work from dry areas into wet areas to limit the creation of ridges. On wood, follow the grain. Wipe the brush off on the can and only wipe one side. Watch for drips! When you finish a wall or section of the ceiling, take a moment to look back over your work. A few minutes inspecting wet paint can save you hours of regret after everything is dry. Where To Start
Start with the ceiling. Next, move to the walls, first painting around the edges, and then cutting in the edges and around windows, or trim one wall at a time. Don't paint too quickly and get ahead of yourself. For the paint to dry without the lines being visible, keep a wet edge. Finally, finish each wall with a roller. If you're in a hurry, ask a friend or two to help rather than rush, and remember: It's hard to improve upon a paint job if the previous one was done poorly.

Cleaning Up Water-Based Paints
You've done a great job, pat yourself on the back! But don't forget about cleanup. Cleaning a paintbrush well can add years of life to the brush. And it starts before painting. Slow the hardening of paint on brushes by lightly wetting brushes with water before using latex paints (or paint thinner with oil-based paint). After painting, choose a cleaning site where residue won't flow in a street or gutter. Wipe off extra paint with a cloth, and then wash the brush with warm water to remove excess paint. Next, fill a clean, old paint can or plastic bucket with warm, soapy water, and rapidly swish the brush in the water. Don't jam the end of the brush into the bottom of the can, or you'll damage the bristles. Repeat until the water is clear. Hang the brush to dry, and then put it in a zip-top plastic bag to store.

Cleaning Up Oil-Based Paints
Again, choose a site where residue won't flow down a drain. Wear gloves to protect your hands. Wipe extra paint off the brush with a cloth, and then pour around 1/2 quart of paint thinner or turpentine, and dip the brush and swish around. Comb paint from the bristles with a wire brush, if needed. Dip the bristles in the thinner, and swish again. Empty out the bucket responsibly, and repeat as necessary. Wipe the cloth to remove excess paint again. Hang the brush to dry, and put it in a zip-top plastic bag to store.

Proper Disposal
Thankfully, long gone are the days when it was acceptable to pour leftover paint and turpentine down a drain. For paint thinners, recycle it by storing in a closed jar until paint particles settle. Strain and reuse the clear liquid -- dry the remaining sludgy bits, wrap in plastic, and put in the trash. Note that in some areas, you may be required by law to dispose of leftover thinner through a hazardous waste program. For paint, begin by saving extra paint for another project. Read the label and follow the manufacturer’s directions for proper disposal. After using all the paint, dry up latex or water-based paints and discard in the trash. Do not dry up oil-based paints! Take them to a household hazardous waste collection site. For more ideas, visit Earth911.


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